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What I Did on My Christmas Vacation...

I had an interesting conversation with some friends about "holiday” vs. "Christmas." We were all able to identify several things that didn't bother us "because I'm Christian." But when I commented that Christmas is a forced holiday I got some push back.

Them: "Nobody is forcing anyone to celebrate Christmas."

Me: "Stores are closed, restaurants are closed, government offices are closed. It's a forced holiday."

Them: Silence. Change of subject. I would have enjoyed some more conversation on that 😊


I answered the inevitable question, "Are you ready for the holidays?" with my standard answer: "What gets done, gets done." This year I didn't get the advent candles or any of my numerous nativity scenes set up. I did get presents mailed on time, though the post office didn't always cooperate at their end. What gets done gets done. None of it stops Christmas from happening. And I will readily tell people that as long as I can be at church on Christmas Eve, I really don't care about anything else. Presents can be opened at any time.


I watched a lot of streaming shows, which were way more religiously-oriented than I had intended.

The Two Popes was an enjoyable movie. It's the story of how Pope Benedict and the future Pope Francis came to know each other. Its accuracy is probably no worse than any other movie "based on a real event." I could have used some more detail about Pope Benedict's time as pope. It was good to find out more about Pope Francis’ history as a priest in Argentina during military rule. (I had to go back to watch that section a few times because I kept getting distracted from reading the subtitles.)

The movie gave humanity to both popes. It provided background about their different approaches to religion. It amplified that our past actions affect our current actions. It demonstrates that faith is defined by more than our Sunday School religious training: it is defined by our personal history, our upbringing, and what happens in our daily lives.

(Make sure you stay through the credits to watch the soccer match!)


I ended up watching 3+ seasons of Greenleaf. (I caught up mid-way through season 4, now I'll have to watch the rest of season 4 one at a time instead of binge-watching.) The story follows the Greenleaf family, the founding family of a large, black church in Tennessee. There is plenty of family drama: affairs, out-of-wedlock children, family estrangement, secrets, financial misdealings, and loss of faith in God.

I don't think I've ever seen a worship service portrayed on fictional TV that contained more than an opening choir song and a sermon. That's it. Greenleaf wasn't any different, but, boy, were the opening songs different! They were worthy of a stadium concert. Soundtrack albums are available on

Finally, after years of independence from any larger church body, the church faces the financial need to become part of a largely white church body with churches all over the country. The church is also encouraged to merge with a struggling local white congregation.

The uniqueness and background of black worship become an important part of the storyline. As I listened to the explanation, it explained some of what I have experienced when worshiping at black churches. And I could laugh at the "whiteness" of some of what we do. In one storyline, the church was being required to use a song that was painfully "white." I would have argued against using it at St. Stephen's!


And I watched a new series: Messiah. It's the story of a person who shows up in the mid-East, then is suddenly in America, and is being referred to as "Messiah." It's an interesting exploration into the questions of how you would recognize Jesus on earth, how you would respond, and how you would react when the Messiah doesn't behave the way you expect. I find myself trying to match people to Biblical characters: the woman who washes Jesus' feet with oil, Saint Matthew, Saint John, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin.

So, what did you do on your Christmas vacation?

- Ann Iona Warner


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